[Kanto day trip] A motorcycle travelogue that connects history to Ashio Copper Mine! A solo journey through Japan’s past history and prosperity

Hello, this is _hiroyuki.ta. This time, I took a motorcycle tour from central Tokyo to the Ashio Copper Mine in Tochigi Prefecture. Ashio Copper Mine is a historic mine that once boasted the highest copper production in Japan and greatly contributed to Japan’s modernization. However, behind the scenes, there was environmental pollution caused by mineral poisons and the suffering of residents. The mine poisoning incident caused by Shozo Tanaka and others is known as Japan’s first pollution incident. This time, we will introduce the history and highlights of Ashio Copper Mine.


What is Ashio Copper Mine?

Ashio Copper Mine is a copper mine located in the Ashio district of Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, and is designated as a national historic site. Since its discovery in 1610 (Keicho 15), it flourished as a copper mine directly managed by the Edo Shogunate. Copper mined from Ashio was used for components of Nikko Toshogu Shrine and Zojoji Temple, and was also minted into currency such as Kan’ei Tsuho. It declined from the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji period, but in 1877 (Meiji 10) Ichibei Koga took over the management and rapidly developed with the latest technology and equipment. In the early 20th century, it grew into a large copper mine, accounting for 40% of Japan’s copper production.

However, behind the scenes, environmental pollution caused by mineral poisons was becoming more serious. Forests in the Ashio Mountains were cut down for mining and fuel, and smoke from smelters caused air pollution. The Watarase River, whose water source is in a desolate mountainous region, frequently floods and carries waste from smelting into it, causing water and soil pollution to the flatlands in its basin. This pollution problem became a major political issue when Shozo Tanaka spoke in the Diet in 1891 (Meiji 24). Shozo Tanaka and others campaigned with residents to demand preventative work and compensation, but the government and the Koga Zaibatsu denied the damage caused by the mine poisoning and took repressive measures. The Ashio Mine Poisoning Incident is known as Japan’s first pollution incident, and was the forerunner of social movements and environmental protection movements.

Even after mining was stopped in 1973 (Showa 48), the smelting business continued due to the company’s hydroelectric power plant and industrial water being sourced from mountainside water, but in 1989 (1989) JR Ashio After line freight transport was abolished, it virtually stopped. Today, there is an industrial waste recycling business using smelting facilities and a tourist facility that tells the history of the copper mine. In addition, the national and prefectural governments are working on forest conservation projects to restore forests and resolve damage caused by mineral poisoning.


今回は、東京都心部から足尾銅山までバイクでツーリングしてきました。愛車はハーレーダビットソン FLSBスポーツグライドです。このバイクは、クルーザーとツアラーの両方の要素を持つモデルで、街乗りからロングツーリングまで幅広く楽しめます。エンジンはミルウォーキーエイト107という1,745ccのVツインエンジンで、パワフルな加速とトルクを発揮します。デザインは、クラシックな雰囲気とモダンなスタイルが融合したもので、フェアリングやサドルバッグなどのパーツは取り外し可能です。足尾銅山までの道のりは、高速道路と一般道路を組み合わせたルートを選びました。



Highlights of Ashio Copper Mine


Ashio Copper Mine has a tourist facility called Copper Mine Tourism. Here you can ride a trolley train and enter the mine. Inside the mine, the guide will explain the inside of the mine, which has a history of 400 years, and the mining methods. It is cool and humid inside the mine, so please be careful about what you wear. The trolley train takes about 30 minutes to make a round trip, but you can also get off and take photos along the way. The trolley train fare is 830 yen for adults and 410 yen for children.

In addition to sightseeing at the copper mine, there are many other attractions at Ashio Copper Mine. For example:

  • Ashio Copper Mine Museum: This museum exhibits the history and technology of Ashio Copper Mine, as well as mining poisoning incidents. You can see Ichibei Koga’s study and materials related to the Ashio Mine Poisoning Incident.
  • Ashio Onsen: A hot spring area near the Ashio Copper Mine. It has a history as old as Ashio Copper Mine, and has flourished as a hot spring resort since the Edo period. Today, there are day-trip bathing facilities and lodging facilities. The quality of the hot spring water is sulfur spring or hydrogen carbonate spring, and it is said to be effective for skin beautification and neuralgia.
  • Soba in Ashio: The soba grown in the Ashio area is grown on highlands with large temperature differences, so it has a strong aroma and firmness. There are many shops in the Ashio area that serve Ashio soba.

Ashio Copper Mine motorcycle parking lot

Ashio Copper Mine has a parking lot for motorcycles. Below are the locations and prices.

  • Copper Mine Sightseeing: You can park your motorcycle at the parking lot at the entrance to Copper Mine Sightseeing. It is free of charge.
  • Ashio Onsen: It varies depending on the hot spring facility, but you can generally park your motorcycle on the grounds of the hot spring facility. Fees may be free or paid. For details, please contact each hot spring facility.


This time, I took a motorcycle tour from central Tokyo to the Ashio Copper Mine. Ashio Copper Mine is a copper mine that greatly contributed to Japan’s modernization, and was also the scene of Japan’s first pollution incident. It is a tourist spot where you can feel its history and culture. If you’re going by bike, we recommend a route that combines expressways and local roads. Ashio Copper Mine has a parking lot for motorcycles, so you can enjoy your ride with peace of mind. Touring the Ashio Copper Mine is a wonderful experience where you can fully enjoy history and nature. Please be sure to visit Ashio Copper Mine once.

The above was sent to you by _hiroyuki.ta. Next time we look forward to.

Ashio Copper Mine